by Jack Criss
Hand me downs: the phrase usually conjures up somewhat pejorative ideas and images: an item previously-owned being donated or passed down to a needy recipient in a act of charity.
Not that we should necessarily think pejoratively of such transactions. There is nothing wrong with, for instance, giving a perfectly good child’s shirt that has been outgrown to another child. Still—and it’s probably just a cultural bias—to refer to “hand me downs” usually has a negative implication attached.
The thought occurred to me that perhaps we need to start considering a new concept—something I’m calling “hand me ups”: a way to share goods and ideas, especially in the business world, to enrich and assist those who could use them. I have a list of what I’m thinking of below but, suffice it to say, there is no shame attached to the receiving of these hand me ups and, far from being well worn and used, the things worth sharing I have in mind will probably be brand new and worth gold to the recipients.
You can admit it or not, but business as usual has been anything but since 2008. The overwhelming majority of us have nowhere near recovered to pre-recession levels of success and may never do so again. The model has changed, the worm has turned, the fix is in—call it what you will and use any cliche; it’s clear that the new world calls for a lot of bravery, indeed.
Politically, in response to the recession and its aftermath, both the left and the right appear guilty of what I’m calling “The Utopia Fallacy”: for liberals, the great god of some mystical Democracy will save society and restore our economy; for those on the right, Free Market Capitalism will ameliorate all of our ills. The two sides are digging in and it’s gotten downright ugly. (A third, “fusionistic” way may emerge but that’s for another Mid-Life Criss.)
Let’s face the fact that, objectively, a pure “anything” will never exist in the United States, as it never has, unless some heretofore unknown cataclysmic event takes place. We live in a very mixed (some would say schizophrenic) economy which tilts leftward and rightward on occasion due to predominant historical and political influences in a given time.
As a businessman, and an individualist, I think its clear that—insofar as can be done without intrusion or coercion—we must take care of our own. Our sphere of influence, which includes our family, our clients, our families and geographical area, I believe must and should command our immediate attention and allegiance. Such thinking puts me at odds with multi-nationalist corporations, the invasive federal government and probably even paints me as a cockeyed idealist, but…so be it. What other options do we have? Go to work for General Electric or Haliburton? Get elected to the Senate? Do these choices pertain to any of you? Probably not.
I’m not making the case for yet another “shop local” campaign here although that’s fine if it’s what you want to do. Providing a hand me up, in my mind, consists in things like mentoring young (or old) entrepreneurs, calling on and utilizing the wise experience of retirees, sharing both your good and bad experiences and providing advice in as many public forums as possible and, generally, giving more of yourself and your business in ways that can benefit fellow businesspeople and customers within your sphere.
Before the libertarians out there go apoplectic, I’m not advocating suicidal self-sacrifice for the good of nameless and possibly undeserving others. If you don’t make a profit in your business you can’t do a damn thing for anybody anyway. Profit is a great thing and a terrific, objective measure of how well you’re doing. But don’t hoard the talent and ability you have used to make those profits; sharing your skills and time doesn’t mean you’re giving away your trade secrets.
I’ll have more on hand me ups later this week. I’d like to know some of your thoughts as I work the idea out with more specifics.
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